March 23, 2012

The reorganization plan is designed to specifically address the key recommendations of the IT Services Work Group on March 14, 2011. The committee made seven key recommendations, three of which are fundamentally related to the present reorganization plan:

  1. Combine what broadly constitutes Administrative IT and Academic IT, as well as desktop support and classroom maintenance functions that are part of Milne Library operations.
  2. Take steps to improve communication and cross training among IT staff and IT users across campus.
  3. Ensure long-term innovation is not impeded by ongoing operational / maintenance needs.

Although one could argue that recommendation 1 has been implemented through reporting line changes, we cannot be a cohesive IT unit if there are essentially two areas, each with its own server group, desktop group, architectural vision, etc.

Organizational Structure

IT Services will be divided into five large areas: three operationally oriented and two oriented towards innovation. In a small IT group such as ours, there is an expectation that all members of the organization participate in innovation and preparation for new products and services; long-term innovation, however, requires a different approach than operations and must remain separate.

Each area will have a single director. Together with the CIO, the five directors will form the leadership team of IT services and work together to best serve the needs of the faculty, staff and students of Oneonta.

Operational Focus Areas

The operational areas are divided into three broad categories from customer service to networking, according to the common principles of a functionally oriented organization. The focus of customer support is on supporting the users of our services, while the focus of the networking area is almost purely on the hardware infrastructure. Each area must balance customer service and hardware focus, but the balance shifts from nearly exclusive hardware focus in networking to nearly exclusive customer focus in support.

By reorganizing into areas where all members of an area share a common technical base and focal point balance, we provide opportunities for cross-training and staff development, addressing recommendation 2. Cross training within functional roles will allow the IT organization to more efficiently serve user needs, e.g. all desktop support personnel will be able to handle both academic and administrative computing equipment. One person going on leave will not limit support for any particular technology, and we should be able to reduce average service wait times and expand service offerings. By joining people with similar functional titles from academic and administrative computing into a single area, we truly achieve the goals of recommendation 1.

  1. Customer Support
    The customer support area is responsible for end-user support. It includes the helpdesk, desktop support, classroom technology support and training activities such as the TIPS program.
  2. Servers and Applications
    The servers and applications area is responsible for our large-scale applications frameworks such as the Banner and Angel along with the data centers in which these applications are deployed. The area is responsible for managing these large infrastructure systems and maintaining the high end-user responsiveness, system stability and ease of use for all of the applications. This area is responsible for all back-room hardware including the equipment in both data centers. Furthermore, the area is also responsible computer imaging services.
  3. Networking and Telecom
    The networking area manages the entire physical infrastructure to connect both computers and people (both within the institution and to the outside world). The responsibilities of this area include the wireless, wired and cell networks, the wiring that forms the networks and the services provided by these networks.

Innovation Focus Areas

While the operational areas are primarily concerned with service maintenance and ensuring a trouble-free computing environment, the innovation focus areas have precisely opposing focus. The area is intended to more clearly define the difference between operations and research and address recommendation 3. These areas can test services to destruction, bring pie-in-the-sky ideas to fruition and drive IT innovation on campus.

The two areas work in close cooperation and freely interchange staff and projects. The primary focus of the two groups is somewhat different, but they are intended to freely share staff time back and forth as needed to best meet the needs of the college.

  1. TLTC
    The TLTC has a long history of supporting both the teaching and research activities of the faculty. Over time, several large projects have landed in this area simply because the TLTC showed willingness and capability. For example, when a Mac was something new and different, it belonged in this area. However, as the platform became a mainstream computing device it never left the TLTC and has now become a full-time desktop support task in the center.

    The reorganization plan pulls this support back to the operational area of customer support, thereby releasing the TLTC to more fully embrace the original mission of faculty technology innovation.

    The same applies to our LMS (Angel). When it was a new technology, the TLTC quite properly did end to end support for the product. Now that it is a mature product in daily use, mundane administrative tasks, such as uploading class rosters, belong in the applications area, allowing the TLTC to focus on its core mission of helping faculty make effective use of technology to improve the learning experience of our students.

  2. Application Research and Development
    The increasing pace of technology innovation is stressing the IT organization on this campus. New products and technologies appear frequently and need to be evaluated for applicability for all areas of the College, not just the teaching faculty.

    The group is staffed by three specialized positions – one system administrator, one programmer and one user interface specialist. This forms a nucleus of specializations which work together to evaluate external applications and bring internal projects to deployment.

    The research and development area is responsible for keeping the College current with both best practices and new technology. This area should lead our project management initiative, the testing of new ideas, discussions about them with user groups on campus, the running pilots of the new technology and, for successful products, transferring them to operations for continued support.